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TRAVELLING TO DUBLIN, IRELAND IN MAY? - You had better have your accommodation booked!!!
By Mary Maguire

No question about it, but Ireland will have the world watching her during the month of May.

Firstly, from May 17 to 20th, QUEEN ELIZABETH II will become the first British sovereign to visit the Republic for a century -hugely significant! Her visit will signify the close relationship that has developed between Ireland and Britain in recent years.

Her Grandfather George V was the last King to visit in 1911 before the Republic had secured independence. Relations between Westminster and Dublin have improved dramatically since the historic Good Friday Northern Ireland peace agreement in 1998. Now, for the first time, a visit is possible. However, for security reasons, the state trip is likely to be confined to the Irish capital.

The historic state visit to Ireland by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II will see her tour sites that are powerful reminders of the Republic's troubled relationship with her nation, including Croke Park and Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance. Ireland’s President, Mary McAleese, invited Queen Elizabeth as her second term draws to an end this year. Both she and the English monarch will make speeches at a state dinner in Dublin Castle.

Secondly, three days or so after Her Majesty leaves, PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA is expected to arrive on Monday May 23rd. He is to spend the day in the country, stay overnight in Dublin and depart for London the next day. Word has it that a visit to his ancestral home in Moneygall, Co. Offaly is also on the agenda. All the president's men and women descended on Moneygall, Co Offaly, recently to begin preparations for his visit. The locals were seen to be hosing down streets, scrubbing walls, planting flowers, painting – it should surely win the All Ireland Tidy Towns contest after this!!!

Meanwhile, tourism chiefs are hoping for a major "bounce" from the queen's visit and that of US President Barack Obama.

"We see these two visits as invaluable shop windows to these two lucrative markets. The US and UK are the top two overseas tourism markets for Ireland," said a Failte Ireland spokesman.

"For the queen's visit this is a first ever and a very significant milestone; while the Obama visit will also generate a lot of interest, particularly among the significant Irish/American population."

The Irish Hotels Federation said it expected hundreds of hotel rooms to be booked to accommodate the president's advance team and the sizeable White House press corps that would accompany him.